History of the American League of Lobbyists
In 1979, a group of Washington, DC lobbyists met monthly over informal luncheons they quickly realized that to represent clients effectively before Congress and federal agencies, lobbyists increasingly needed to possess the level of education, training, practice, and skill through which occupations become known as "professions." The effective and respected lobbyist is not only is well trained but also possesses characteristics of integrity and judgment that advance the legislative and regulatory processes. These lobbyists knew that the interests of lobbyists as professionals cut across political, ideological, philosophical, and economic lines.
Encouraged by the distinguished lobbyist Bryce Harlow, these professionals recognized that it would be beneficial to form an organization that enhanced public understanding and the development of the occupation of lobbying as a profession. Much as the American Bar Association assists in the professionalism of persons who, by occupation, participate in public process of adjudication, a society of lobbyists could assist in the professionalism of persons who, by occupation, participate in public processes of legislating and agency decision making.
The American League of Lobbyists was born from this recognition of the stature of lobbying as a profession. Initially, the League was an unincorporated association of lobbyists who chose to meet once or twice a month to discuss issues that affected lobbyists as professionals in order to increase their skill and competency without regard to the clients or causes for which the individual lobbyists worked. At that early stage in the League’s history, the members debated whether the League should retain the word "lobbyists" in its name. A few members feared that the opprobrium too often associated with the term "lobbyist" by media outlets and others would hinder the work of the League’s work in increasing the professionalism of lobbyists. Then, and in other instances in which the issue has been raised, League members have rejected overwhelmingly the notion of running away from the term "lobbyist." Whatever its origin, the term now stands for a profession – a profession that exercises, and assists others in exercising, the rights of free speech and petitioning government embodied in the first amendment. League members determined that enhancing the standing and reputation of lobbyists lay not in a change of terminology but in the sponsorship of meetings, events, programs, and most importantly, a set of standards that enhance the professionalism of lobbyists.
Throughout 1979 and into 1980, League meetings grew in size and scope. In the summer of 1980, League members decided that the League needed a more formal structure. Consequently, the League was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in the District of Columbia on September 11, 1980. The initial Board of Directors included such distinguished lobbyists as Thomas Finnigan, John Vance, John Jay Daly, Frank Martineau, Pat Waldo, and Kathryn Royce. The Internal Revenue Service recognized the League as a tax-exempt organization soon after its incorporation.
From its origin, the League was open to any person engaged in the lobbying profession without regard to personal characteristics such as gender, race, or ethnicity and without regard to the institutions for which the lobbyist worked. The League represented the profession of lobbying. Thus, private lobbyists, lobbyists working for for-profit entities, lobbyists working for not-for-profit entities, and lobbyists representing unions and the labor movement joined together in the membership and on the Board of Directors. The League has been guided continuously by this notion of inclusiveness and collegiality.
Current activities include numerous meetings and presentations on public policy issues, seminars on lobbying techniques and practices, surveys of public policy professionals, representation of the profession of public policy advocacy, and most importantly the maintenance and upholding of a Code of Ethics for lobbyists.
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Last updated: September 28, 2011